The story of the strange and bizarre circus of the 1930’s has been told time and again, from the “wild” carnivals of the West Country, the “puppet” carnival of the United States, the European circus, the circus of Japan, and the bizarre carnival-like carnivals on the South American side of the border.
But until now, no one had really described how a circus, a circus of such a nature, managed to survive for nearly 150 years in a region with little in the way of a modern infrastructure.
Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Leeds has identified a series of clues that suggest that a circus that took place in Leeds, in the North East of England, had a highly sophisticated infrastructure, which could have enabled it to function at the scale that it did.
The team is the first to use advanced computational modelling techniques to analyse the circus and its activities and the results have been published in the journal Evolutionary Computation.
“This is the most complete reconstruction of the circus to date and it is the best-documented, and probably most accurate, of all the circus records in North East England,” says co-author Professor Chris Woodcock, from Leeds’ Department of Zoology and University of Bristol.
The study is based on a series the team collected over the course of six years and involved a number of collaborations across universities and research institutions.
It includes a detailed reconstruction of a large part of the original circus in Leeds and has been performed by a team at the University’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, as well as other institutions.
The work was carried out as part of a research project funded by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and funded by University College London’s School of Geography and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Fellowship (ERC-11151771).
The original circus is known as the “Tudor Circus” and was established in Leeds in the late 1820s, by the family of a prominent English actor.
In the late 1880s, the family moved the circus from their home in Leeds to a smaller premises in South Yorkshire.
A few years later, the house was demolished and the circus moved to the nearby village of Blackwood.
By the early 1900s, there were around 30 circus companies operating in the area, with some performing in the surrounding countryside.
“We found a few small, isolated properties that were quite remote, that had a fairly traditional structure, but that were built with modern structures,” says Professor Woodcock.
“So we wanted to know how these properties were constructed, what kind of modern equipment they used, and we did that by using modern technology, which is really quite rare at the time, and by analysing the original documents.”
To do this, the researchers collected all the documents that could be linked to the original Tudor circus in the Leeds area, and then they analysed the information contained in the documents.
“The papers were basically written in the 1930-30s, so we were able to go back in time and trace the production and distribution of the equipment, the buildings, and where the animals were housed,” says professor Woodcock.
“”The only thing that was missing from the original documentation was a list of the names of the owners and managers of the company and where they were based.
So we started from that.
“What we found was that the Tudors had a sophisticated production chain that involved a wide range of businesses that were all interconnected, including several companies that were based in different parts of the country, including in South Africa and the United Kingdom.”
“There was a lot of complexity to the company, and it was probably a lot more complex than we had previously thought,” says associate professor of archaeology, John Erskine-Smith, from UCL’s School and a former director of the Leeds Archaeological Centre.
“But the main thing that we found is that it was a company that was very successful and managed to manage its business to an extraordinary extent.”
It was during this period that the company also started to develop a large number of elaborate and elaborate rides for its guests, some of which are still in use today.
“Some of these rides are still used today, some were designed and built in the 1970s and were really elaborate, and some of them are actually quite well preserved, and they have been restored by some of the people who built them,” says Prof Woodcock “We also found that many of the performers in the circus were highly educated, which suggests that they were very good at communicating with their audiences.”
“When the circus was shut down in 1930, it was not a complete circus, and there were still lots of people working in the business,” he adds.
“They had a great sense of humour and were very friendly to their customers, but there were a number who were a bit more reserved.”
So what we found in the